Essence of the Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 18 (Part II of III, Shlokas 29 – 55)
The Path to Liberation through Renunciation
Shri Krishna said, “I will tell you in detail three kinds of intellect and fortitude, which are divided by the three gunas.
The Three Kinds of Intellect:
The first type of intellect is called the Sattvika (superior) Intellect. This is the kind of intellect that knows clearly the difference between the path of householders and the path of Sanyasins (people who renounce everything to realize God). The Sattvika Intellect knows which actions are their responsibilities to perform and which are not, whom to fear and whom not to, and the difference between things that lead to slavery versus those that lead to freedom.
The type of intellect that creates confusion between righteousness and unrighteousness, and what is or is not a responsibility is called the Rajasika (mediocre) Intellect.
The lowest form of intellect that has a reverse understanding of everything due to ignorance is called the Tamasika (inferior) Intellect. A person with Tamasika Intellect sees righteous as unrighteous and unrighteous as righteous.
The Three Kinds of Fortitude:
The fortitude by which a person gathers one’s mind and directs it along with the vital forces and the senses, single-pointedly towards the Self (Atman), is called the Sattvika (supreme) fortitude.
The fortitude by which a person with worldly desires passionately works for sense-pleasures and money, and performs religious rituals for worldly comforts or heaven, is called the Rajasika (mediocre) fortitude.
The fortitude by which a person with undeveloped intellect does not give up sleep, fear, grief, despondency, and arrogance, is called the Tamasika (inferior) fortitude.
The Three Kinds of Happiness:
The first kind of happiness is that which is felt within, as a result of spiritual practices done to realize God and being aware of one’s own true identity (Atman). This kind of happiness removes all the sorrows of life. It is called the Sattvika (superior) happiness. Initially, the spiritual practices which lead one to this type of happiness may be painful, but after overcoming the initial period of difficulties, one will begin to feel more and more happiness and bliss.
The kind of happiness that results of the union of the senses and the objects of the senses is referred to as Rajasika (mediocre) happiness. Initially, this happiness feels like nectar, but eventually results in pain, worries, and slavery.
The third kind of happiness is a result of things like excessive sleep, laziness, and negligence. It is called Tamasika (inferior) happiness. It deludes the mind in the beginning and also at the end.
The Power of the Three Gunas:
There is nothing, neither a person nor an object, born on this earth or anywhere in the universe that is beyond the dominance of the three gunas.
Classification of People’s Duties According to Their Natural Tendencies (dominance of the gunas/traits in them):
The duties of various categories of people, including Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra, have been divided according to the characteristics they have developed due to their natural tendencies.
The Duties of Brahmins (Spiritual Teachers):
The duties of Brahmins are (1) to have control over their senses and mind, (2) to perform austerities, (3) to maintain internal and external purity, (4) to forgive people, (5) to keep their mind simple (devoid of crookedness), (6) to have firm faith in the scriptures and God, (7) to study scriptures to realize God, (8) to make efforts to realize God, and (9) to have direct experience of God.
The Duties of Kshatriyas (Soldiers):
The duties of Kshatriyas are the following: (1) to develop and show heroism, high spirit, firmness, and skill to solve problems, (2) to never run away from a battlefield (3) to be charitable in nature, and (4) to take up responsibility for the people they protect.
The Duties of the Vaishyas (Business People):
The duties of Vaishyas are said to be (1) honestly doing business and (2) protection and sustenance of farming, animals, and the environment.
The Duty of Shudras (Laborers):
The duty of Shudras determined due to their natural tendencies is to provide services to all.
How One Can Attain Supreme Knowledge by Performing One’s Duties:
If one sincerely performs one’s duties or responsibilities as a householder, then one attains the same Supreme Knowledge that a yogi attains by renouncing the world.
Let me tell you how one can attain such Supreme Knowledge simply by performing one’s responsibilities.
When a person becomes aware, through the performance of his/her responsibilities, that (s)he is worshiping the Creator of the universe, by whom the whole universe is pervaded, then (s)he will attain Supreme Knowledge.
Poorly performing one’s own responsibilities is better than well-performed someone else’s responsibilities. If one performs one’s own responsibilities, then one will not feel guilt.
(Note: Think of it as though each person is a point in the universe that is made out of space-time-causation. Each one has one’s own responsibilities, according to the placement of the point. The physical universe is functioning because the five elements (space, wind, fire, water, and earth), the sun, the moon, and plants, etc. perform their individual responsibilities. Similarly, if each human being performs his/her responsibilities, the entire human society can function smoothly. When people do not perform their responsibilities, then conflicts and chaos arise in families or in the greater society. (Regardless of our willful compliance, we have to remember that, sooner or later, we will be forced to perform our responsibilities anyway, per nature’s laws and forces greater than us.)
As every fire generates smoke, so does every action have unpleasant consequences associated with it. Therefore, one should not quit ones responsibilities foreseeing their unpleasant consequences.
If one is fully detached (realizing that everything belongs to God), has full self-control, and desires only to realize the Ultimate Reality or Truth, that person, by renouncing the results of his/her actions, attains the highest state of supreme calmness and peace, even while he/she remains intensely active in the world. This is a state of freedom from all bondages created by consequences of actions performed.
Inner Calmness and Peace Lead to the Realization of Brahman (the Ultimate Truth or Reality):
O Arjuna! I will tell you briefly how a person, who has attained inner calmness and peace within, by properly performing one’s responsibilities, realizes Brahman, the Supreme Knowledge, which the Jnani attains through renunciation of all actions.
When a person develops the following characteristics through properly performing actions, then (s)he becomes worthy of being one with Brahman (the highest state that a human being can attain).
(1) pure intellect (which clearly discriminates between right and wrong), (2) sattvika fortitude, (3) control of mind and senses, (4) free of distraction from worldly objects that attract the senses, (5) beyond attachments and hatred, (6) love for solitude that helps one to focus one’s mind on God and reflect upon the purpose of life, (7) keep the intake of the senses minimum whether that be intake of food by mouth, or through any other senses (8) control of speech and body, (9) continuous engagement in meditation, (10) being established in renunciation, (11) removal of ego, power, pride, lust, anger, and possessions, (12) have replaced “Me and mine” by “Thee and thine”, and (13) a peaceful nature.
Such a person, being one with Brahman, is very happy within, does not grieve for loss, does not desire anything in the world, and sees all as manifestations of Brahman, attains supreme love for God.
Having attained this supreme love for God, (s)he knows Me (God with form and God without form) in totality, and then becomes one with Me.
In the first part, I briefly talked about the philosophies of Jnana Yoga and Karma Yoga before describing simple but effective spiritual practices of the yogas. In this part, I would like to share with you briefly what I understood the practical major points of Raja Yoga.
One can learn more about Raja Yoga by reading the Bhagavad Gita (especially chapter 6), Swami Vivekananda’s book “Raja Yoga” and Swami Adiswaranandaji’s book “The Four Yogas”.
Raja Yoga: Raja Yoga is a path to realize the Ultimate Reality or Brahman or God that is lying within through self-control and focusing the mind. As sun-rays gathered by a magnifying-glass creates fire, similarly the mind, gathered by self-control and focused on our inner divine Self (Atman), reveals our true identity. This is God realization.
Raja Yoga logically and scientifically describes the stages of progress from the beginning to the last stage of realizing the Ultimate Reality. These steps are different states of our mind. Once we go through all of these stages, we understand all the aspects of our mind. These are the famous eight steps of Raja Yoga.
Seven Steps of Raja Yoga & Eighth step of Vedanta:
(1)Yama: Yama constitutes of five practices to help attain self-control:
(i) Ahimsa (Non-violence): One should not hurt anyone physically, verbally, and mentally. Any thought, or word, or an action which harms any person keeps our mind in an agitated or reactionary mood. With such a mood, a person cannot focus one’s mind completely. We can focus our mind partially on the Self along with harmful thoughts. But such partial focus cannot help us to attain the highest knowledge. A person with idea of revenge or harming others cannot be a decent human being, not to talk about a Yogi. Therefore, 100% focus of our mind is necessary.
(ii) Satya (Truthfulness): In order to be a Raja Yogi, one has to practice to be truthful in thoughts, speech, and actions. Hypocrites and dishonest people cannot progress in any Yoga. Being truthful prepares a ground to begin our journey to realize the highest knowledge.
(iii) Asteya (Not to Steal): Respecting the property of other people and not stealing builds up self-control. These properties of others could be in any form.
(iv) Brahmacharya (Practicing Celibacy): Sri Ramakrishna said that lust and greed tie mind of a human being to the lower planes and will not let it think anything higher. Brahmacharya is to control lustful thoughts, speech, and actions. There is a short story that encapsulates this point. Someone once had a mongoose as a pet and he had a small ground for it to go around. The ground was surrounded by a wall. To stop mongoose from running away, the owner tied a brick to its tail with a string. Each time mongoose tried to climb the wall to go away, the weight of the brick brought it down. Lust and greed are these weights.
Lust is a natural instinct in all beings to continue the creation of the universe. But, it is a small part of human life. Human beings are not born just to produce more human beings and die. There is much more to life. People forget this and orient their whole lives around this lust-oriented joy. Therefore, they miss a lot of uplifting joy of life which the scriptures describe. The Upanishads say that the sum total of all worldly joys is lesser than one-billionth of the bliss one gets by realizing Atman.
Those who try to fulfill lustful desires are either not aware of or forget the fact that these desires are like fire and attempts to fulfill them are like adding ghee into it. The more we put ghee into the fire, the more it intensifies. It is like the Myth of Sisyphus. Each time one rolls a stone up, it rolls down. Sri Shankaracharya says that trying to fulfill all worldly desires and simultaneously get the highest knowledge is like trying to cross a river holding a crocodile.
What can be done? Not all people can live a life of celibacy. It is true that only 1% of human beings truly renounce everything and fully dedicate their lives for God-realization and service to humanity. In Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna says, “All legitimate desires come from Me (God)” (Gita 7.11). That is why in the Hindu system there are four parts of life: Brahmacharya, Gruhastha, Vanprastha and Sanyas. In the younger ages (up to 25 years), students should practice celibacy and devote all their time and energy to acquire moral and spiritual knowledge, learning various skills to make a living in the future and to build their character. Then, there are two choices. One path is to renounce everything for God-realization and service to humanity. The second path is to get married, raise a family properly, and get control over lust and greed. And then, after having experienced the world, they can renounce everything for God-realization and service to humanity. This is Vanaprastha and Sanyasa. Sri Ramakrishna said that after one or two children, the husband and wife should live like brother and sister and should help each other in their spiritual progress. This is possible if they understand the importance of spiritual practices and the bliss, peace, knowledge, and fulfillment that follow. This has to be done very carefully without damaging an individual’s mind and his/her relationship with the spouse.
Controlling and focusing the mind on God or Self is not an easy task for it needs tremendous will-power. This will-power comes from controlling the lustful thoughts and other desires through which our energy runs out. This is where spiritual practice becomes difficult and we need help from the All Mighty. We have to sincerely pray and try. If we are sincere, at right moment help comes from the All Mighty. Actually, devotees feel that only by God’s grace can we do spiritual practices.
(v) Aparigraha (Living with minimum belongings and not receiving any gift or favors from others): Those who have a higher goal of God realization or attaining the highest knowledge need all of the possible time and resources to make progress on achieving this goal. They cannot waste their time maintaining lots of unnecessary material things. That is why they select a “simple life,” meaning to live on minimum number of worldly things. For example, they question to themselves: How many minimum numbers of clothes, shoes, toiletries and other things are needed for me to live? They will find out what the minimum liabilities they should go into are. They chose bare necessities over luxury.
Receiving gifts or favors from others creates a sense of guilt to pay back in some form or other. The giver may have some form of expectation that may result in guilt if we cannot fulfill them. A question comes: “In house-holders life how can we avoid not receiving gift or favors?” The answer is, “We should receive gifts or favors only in unavoidable situations. And whenever we receive any gift or favor, we must try to give back more than what we have received. This way no guilt will be left and mind remains free.”
(2)Niyama: Niyama constitutes the following five observances:
(i) Saucha(External and internal purity):Cleanliness of the body and mind is very important. Cleanliness of body is easy to maintain, but cleanliness of mind takes a long time. When mind is clean, only then does the divinity manifest from within. Thus, cleanliness of mind is the ultimate goal. A Raja Yogi should have this goal of purification in mind and constantly work for it. As mind gets purified, one advances towards one’s true identity, The Divine Self or Atman. One develops a sense of purity, and consequently impurity will make one uncomfortable. We have to remember that whatever takes us away from our divine Self is impure.
(ii) Santosh(Contentment): A student of Raja Yoga develops a sense of contentment. Being in the world, it is natural that we have desires. We need to fulfill legitimate desires. But, we have to realize the following facts: (1) We cannot fully satisfy all the worldly desires. The more we try to fulfill these desires, the more they grow in intensity. (2) The fulfillment of worldly desires gives us little pleasure initially, but then we have to pay a high price for our energy, time, and resources. At the end, the consequences make us suffer more than the pleasure. (3) Worldly desires make us slaves of worldly objects and people. We cannot think and act independently. (4) It is always good to have desires which help us grow spiritually and give us better understanding of our lives. Thus, we have to keep our legitimate desires minimum, be happy with what we have and what we get, and continue striving for spiritual development. Scriptures say that “contentment is the greatest wealth one can have.”
(iii) Tapas(Austerity): We have to learn to bear the pain that comes when we make efforts for spiritual development. People suffer so much to attain a worldly thing which eventually gives them very little joy and still they do not complain. Why then should a spiritual seeker complain in bearing a little suffering which will give infinite joy? If we are forced to remain hungry, it is painful. But, if we willingly fast, then it is an austerity.
(iv) Swadhyaya (Study of Scriptures): A study of the scriptures is important. In the beginning, it is good to listen to the experts who had practiced what the scriptures say and had developed spiritually. Listening to intellectuals who do not practice the essence of scriptures will not help much. Through the God-realized people, we can learn essence of scriptures and practice them. This way we avoid spending our time understanding useless and unnecessary things. We will also avoid misinterpretations of the scriptures. Furthermore, we have to learn what is applicable to us at this given point. Many inessential things of the scriptures are necessary to preserve the essential things. For example, a banana skin is necessary to have banana. But, we have to remove the skin and eat only the banana.
(v) Ishwar Pranidhana (Worship of God): Some form of worship of God is necessary to develop love for God. Also, for a person with body-consciousness, it is important to think God with a form. It will be easier to focus on God with form than God without form.
(3)Asana: We have to master a sitting posture that is comfortable and will help us focus our minds on God. We have mastered a posture if by sitting in that posture we can forget our body and comfortably think of God for an hour or more. Usually, this posture consists of sitting on the floor with crossed legs. For a normal healthy person, the mastery of this posture can be developed through regular spiritual practice. Those who have been advanced in the spiritual path say that sitting crossed-legged while keeping the spinal column, neck and head in straight line, helps focus our minds on God or our spiritual ideal. The Bhagavad Gita also describes the same posture in the shlokas 6.13.
(4)Pranayama: Our breathing is connected with our state of mind. If we are calm, then our breathing is slow, smooth, even from both the nostrils, and has fewer inhale-exhale units per minute. If our mind is excited, agitated, angry, or scared, then our breathing will be faster, shorter, and will have more units of inhale-exhale per minute. Also, we do not need to breathe from both of our nostrils all the time. This depends on our state of mind. Naturally our mind is calm when night meets day and in the evening when day meets night. These are the best times to pray, do japa, or meditate.
Raja Yoga also teaches how to do the opposite – to control the mind by controlling breathing. This has to be done systematically and in the presence of an expert. Otherwise, one may damage one’s mind. Along with this breathing exercise (Pranayama), one has to do all the practices described above for self-control.
(5)Pratyahara: We must get control over the mind’s power of attaching and detaching to our sense-organs. This can be done with 3 things. (1) One must observe how various thoughts come and how the mind gets attached or detached from the sense-organs and their objects. Mostly, the mind gets attached to the sense-organs and their objects through desires, causing the mind to wander around. By observing the mind and having desire to get control over the mind, the desires and thoughts get reduced over a period of time. (2) One must have the will-power to withdraw the mind from the sense-organs and their useless desires. Using too much force is not good. This has to be done cleverly without breaking the mind’s ability to function. (3) One must explain to his/her mind how useless it is to run after every desire that comes to the mind. By discrimination, from all desires, we have to separate the favorable and legitimate desires and the harmful illegitimate desires. Then, tell the mind to get rid of the latter desires and focus on the favorable and legitimate desires.
(6)Dharana: Practice to focus the mind on God or Self (Atman; our True Identity) and keep it focused as long as possible. The mind has to be focused and must remain steady like the flame of an oil-lamp or the candle in a windless environment. If we can focus our mind continuously on God or Self for twelve seconds then it is called Dharana. Imagine, we have to focus continuously for only twelve seconds! But, the mind’s activities are very fast and can in fact be measured in nanoseconds. However, yogis can still control and focus their mind on God or Self. Many people focus their mind unconsciously on the worldly object they love. We have to use this ability in the spiritual path in order to obtain the unlimited bliss, deeper knowledge of ourselves, unselfish love for all, and fulfillment of life.
(7)Dhyana(Meditation): When the focus of our mind becomes steady, then we can go into meditation. Twelve seconds of continuous focus of our mind on God or Self makes one unit of Dharana and twelve such units of Dharana makes one unit of Dhyana or meditation. When people say that they are meditating, then they are actually NOT meditating. Because, when one is aware that ‘I am meditating,’ that is a distraction of the mind. In meditation, there is no awareness of anything except the form of God or Self. One only becomes aware of the meditation after the actual meditation happened. Trying to meditate is different than meditation. In meditation, there is no awareness of body, time and space.
(8)Samadhi: This is the final stage of consciousness in which the meditator, the object of meditation, and the meditation become one. Twelve units of meditation lead one into Samadhi. It is very difficult to attain Samadhi. However, it is not impossible. People have witnessed Sri Ramakrishna attaining Samadhi often. Any thought of God or any uplifting thought would take his mind to either God (Mother Kali) or further into Infinite Atman or Brahman. Doctors have even checked his physical state during Samadhi and found that all the activities of body have stopped, though his face continued beaming with divine bliss. In Samadhi, Sri Ramakrishna was oblivious of the space, time, and environment. Only towards the end of his Samadhi would his mind slowly become aware of space, time, and environment. Regaining consciousness, his words would become very powerful, filled with inspiration and wisdom. Being one with the Universal Mother in Samadhi, he used to say, “The Universal Mother speaks through me.” By a mere look and touch, he transformed many people’s lives for good. These people (his direct disciples) inspired millions of people all over the world. Following Sri Ramakrishna’s guidance, they uplifted themselves, removed their sufferings, experienced infinite bliss, and served humanity with their unselfish service. This is the outcome of Samadhi. A person experiencing Samadhi can improve lives of millions of people.
Six Centers of Spiritual Consciousness: Raja Yoga also includes six centers of consciousness.
These centers are in the spinal column and match with the nervous-system of a human being. According to Raja Yoga, the consciousness of a person moves along three subtle nerve channels called Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna. If we take a horizontal figure eight ( or the infinity symbol and pile up several of these symbols one on top of the other, that would resemble what prepares the nerve channels of Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna. The left circle represents Ida, the right circle represents Pingala, and the middle hollow part is Sushumna. This column goes from sacral plexus to the top of the brain. The different plexuses that have centers in the spinal column do match with the centers of Raja Yoga. Usually, the messages between brain and other nerve centers travel through Ida and Pingala. Yet, a Raja Yogi, through control on the senses and mind, develops a faster communication between brain and the senses through Sushumna. The signals travel through air like wireless communication. It is amazing that when Swami Vivekananda explained the work of Sushumna, the wireless communication was not even invented.
These six centers of Raja Yoga range from the lowest plane of gross impulses to the highest plane of pure bliss.
(i) Muladhara (Center symbolized with a four-petal lotus): This is the first state of consciousness. When mind is at this level, a person thinks only of food, guided by gross subconscious desires.
(ii) Swadhisthan (symbolized with a six-petal lotus): At this level of consciousness, a person is constantly swayed by gross impulses, imaginations, and animalistic propensities.
(iii) Manipur (symbolized with a ten-petal lotus): This is situated at the naval level of an individual. At this level, one feels that as clouds obstruct the vision of sun, the clouds of gross urges and impulses are obstructing the Truth.
(iv) Anahata (symbolized with a twelve-petal lotus): This is situated at the level of heart. When consciousness rises at this level, an individual starts getting a glimpse of the Ultimate Truth or God or Self. Every now and then the clouds of the gross urges go away and one has spiritual vision of God or Self.
(v) Vishuddha (symbolized with a sixteen-petal lotus): When mind rises to this level of consciousness and stays there most of the time, then all impurities of the mind goes away.
(vi) Ajna (symbolized with a two-petal lotus): This center lies between eyebrows. At this level of consciousness, one has clear vision of God or Self. However, it is as if an extremely clear and thin glass surrounds this God or Self. This clear glass is the thin ego of a person who wants to enjoy the vision of God or Self.
Vedanta talks about seventh stage of consciousness.
(vii) Sahastrara (symbolized with a thousand-petal lotus): It is located at the crown of the head. When the consciousness rises to this level, an individual becomes one with God or Self. All the ideas of identification of an individual with body and mind vanish. An individual’s consciousness merges with the Universal Consciousness. Now a person feels Oneness with all. One feels that everything is manifestation of consciousness (Brahman). One directly sees that consciousness (Brahman) has become everything. There is no matter.
With above mentioned practices of Raja Yoga, one can raise one’s consciousness from the lowest level to the highest level.
(1) Usually people think that Yoga refers to just a few physical exercises to live a healthy life and get some mental peace. This wrong impression prevents them to get something higher. It is like people seeing few pictures of Himalayas and thinking that they have seen Himalayas. By just seeing a picture, they cannot get thrilling experience of the grandeur and beauty of Himalayas.
(2) People look at the requirements to be a Raja Yogi and become afraid that they can never be such a yogi. The steps of Raja Yoga are so clearly described that people get overwhelmed. But, with determination and practice, one can become a true Raja Yogi.
(3) In Raja Yoga, “Laya” is a great obstacle. When people travel in a car or a train or a plane, they fall in sleep by the rhythm. Similarly, in Raja Yoga when people try to meditate, most of the time “Laya” comes and people cannot separate this lazy state of mind from the actual meditative state. People spend years remaining at this stage believing that they have attained meditative state. A highly meditative state and a state of inertness look alike. Swami Vivekananda clearly stated the difference between a person in Samadhi and a person in deep sleep. He said that an ignorant person feels physically good after falling in deep sleep, but remains ignorant. On the other hand, when an ignorant person goes into Samadhi, he becomes wise.
“When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-Gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day” – Mahatma Gandhi
This year, on December 13th, all over the world devotees and lovers of Bhagavad Gita are celebrating Gita Jayanti by reciting its 700 verses or couple of chapters and/or thinking about their meaning. For intellectuals Bhagavad Gita is a wonderful book. For devotees these are the words of Lord Shri Krishna. Bhagavad Gita had inspired innumerable Saints, Sages, Spiritual teachers, Scholars, Great leaders, and common people who are struggling to live a decent life.
There are innumerable commentaries, books, and articles written on Bhagavad Gita. Many spiritual teachers and scholars have lived their entire lives talking and elaborating the meanings of the verses of Bhagavad Gita.
At Vivekananda Vidyapith, on December 7th we recited all the eighteen chapters of Bhagavad Gita. Many verses or shlokas appealed to my mind while reciting them. It was an uplifting experience. We cannot agree any more with Sanjay who told at the end of the Bhagavad Gita, “I heard this wonderful dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna which created goose bumps due to excessive joy. As I remember this amazing dialogue again and again an upsurge of bliss fills my heart.”
Bhagavad Gita is an ocean of wisdom. Even taking a little of its water in our palms and drinking it makes our life blessed. Meaning that taking even one of Bhagavad Gita’s teachings and practicing it in our life makes our life happy and it fills our heart with satisfaction of living a good life.
I will share one thought which overpowered many other thoughts about the teachings of Bhagavad Gita. We love God and we want God to love us. A question comes: what kind of a person should we become so that God loves us?
It is amazing that Shri Krishna himself describes who is most beloved to God. More amazing is that He did NOT say, one who goes to temples every day, or performs rituals or offers various things to Me or spend hours in singing and meditating on Me or does any external practice is My most beloved! It is not that these practices are not good. But, from Shri Krishna’s answer it seems that these things are not sufficient. Shri Krishna describes the qualities of His most beloved devotee in shlokas Gita 12.13 – 12.19. After spiritual practices these qualities must manifest from the devotees. The following are few of these qualities:
(Note: Swami Vivekananda liked these qualities so much that he included an English translation of these shlokas into his lectures on Raja Yoga.)
– One who hates none: Very first quality is not to hate anyone! Why? When we hate a person or an object, then we give that person or an object a special place in our mind. Giving a part of our mind to that person or an object, we block our mind to think something beneficial to us.
– Who is a friend of all: As a result of our spiritual practices unselfish love for all should develop naturally.
– Compassionate towards all: One who understands sufferings and pain of others and does whatever he/she can to remove or ease them.
– Devoid of possessiveness: One who understands that we did not bring anything in this world when we were born and we will not be able to take anything from this world when we die. A devotee has a firm conviction that everything belongs to God and we are just care-takers.
– Egoless: Ego blocks Reality and contaminates it. With ego, I see the world only from ‘my point of view’ and not from the ‘others point of view.’ I see my big mistake as a small one and another’s small mistake as a big one. As true knowledge comes, then ego reduces and humility develops.
– A person’s mind is balanced in joys and sorrows: There are many examples in which people have lost their heads when they were happy and have committed harmful mistakes. Also, people fall apart in sorrows. A devotee remains balanced in joys and sorrows. When happiness comes, a devotee thanks God for giving happiness and keeps mind alert for not getting carried away. When sorrows come a devotee clings to God to go through the painful time.
– Forgiving: A devotee has a big heart and forgives others for their mistakes and misbehavior. He/she thinks that he/she makes mistakes and so do others. Also, people misbehave because of ignorance. Keeping grudge against someone develops hatred which is not good.
– Satisfied: A devotee works hard to fulfill one’s responsibilities and remain satisfied with whatever he/she gets as rewards (God’s prasad).
– Ever devoted to Yoga: For a devotee the spiritual practice is a 24-365(6) commitment. One who wants to attain spiritual goal has to integrate all activities which leads one towards that goal.
– Posses Self-control: For spiritual progress one has to slowly develop self-control. Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita ask us to control senses by mind, the mind by pure intellect and the pure intellect by Atman (Self). One cannot have spiritual progress without self-control.
– Determined: Many worldly things deviates a devotee from the spiritual path. One needs a strong determination to stick to the spiritual path and make spiritual progress.
– Gives mind and intellect to God: Swami Vivekananda says that both head and heart are needed in spiritual path. We have to engage intellect to think about the goal, the path, the obstacles and ways to remove the obstacles. Also, through various practices one has to develop love for God, like singing hymns, bhajans, dhoons, reading inspiring books and biographies, holy company etc.
– One who does not become a cause of suffering: A devotee is careful not to create any problem to other people. He/she lives cautiously. Sometimes people out of ego or jealousy think that a devotee is a problem, but a devotee has no intention to create any problem.
– One who is not disturbed by the others: Because of lack of hatred, being a friend of all, and having a forgiving nature a devotee does not get disturbed by people’s behavior. A devotee learns how to work lovingly with others.
– Free from fear and anxieties: A devotee thinks that God has created me and takes care of me. With that attitude he/she is free from fear and anxieties just as a child is free from them having parents around.
– Have no expectations from others: A devotee is completely dependent on God. He/she lives in the world having no expectations from anyone. He/she tries to give more than receives. If a person cannot give something in return, then one does sincere prayers for the good of the people from whom one has to receive something.
– Pure: Shri Ramakrishna said that pure mind, pure intellect and Atman (Self) are same. Through pure mind Atman reflects from within. A devotee is always working hard to remove impurities from one’s mind.
– Skillful: Shri Ramakrishna said that a devotee is not a dumb person. He/she skillfully performs every action. A devotee puts one’s full mind and heart into every action. Even if the action is small, he/she tries to do it in a perfect possible way. Saints say that if you want to know how a person’s meditation is then see how he/she performs small actions.
– Unbiased: A devotee does not take a side. He/she looks a situation from all sides. He/she does not try to cover a friend’s mistake or a wrong-doing and never fails to admire a good thing of any person, friend or a foe.
– Never initiates any action with worldly desire: A devotee’s attitude is “Seek not, avoid not.” He/she takes care of whatever responsibilities come to him/her with full mind and heart. He/she knows that there is no need to add more work which he/she does not have to do it. This way he/she has time and energy to do spiritual practices.
– Even minded in honors and insults: A devotee has Self-dignity, but his/her mind does not get disturbed by the external honors and insults given by people. He/she knows that one who honors now may insults him/her later and vice a versa. Many times people honor because of the fulfillment of their selfish desires and insults when they are not fulfilled. In a football, cricket or any game people cheer a player when he/she does good and boo the same player later when he/she does not do good. Lord Buddha said that when a person insults you and if you do not take it then it remains with the person. A devotee offers praises to God thinking that God gave good qualities which were praised. When someone insults, then a devotee thinks ‘do I have to learn something from this, then learn it, and if there is nothing to learn from it then simply drop it.’
– Detached: Detached means attached to God. If we think that ‘everything belongs to God and I am only a care-taker’ then real detachment comes. Detachment does not mean a person becomes rough or heartless or careless. It is completely opposite. A detached person has true love for all and cares for all thinking that he/she is taking care of God’s children and God’s things.
– Has Steady Intellect: The characteristics of a person with steady intellect have been defined at the end of Bhagavad Gita chapter 2. Mahatma Gandhi loved these qualities. A devotee cannot be whimsical. His/her mind and intellect are steady. He/she has a fixed spiritual goal and does everything to reach that goal. His/her character is very strong and does not change by the whims of the mind.
– Whose home is the whole world: For a devotee the whole world is God’s. Thus he/she is content wherever he/she resides. He/she is always with God.
Wow! So many qualities! I am sure each one of us thinks that it is not possible to have all these qualities. Thus, it is not possible to become a God’s beloved devotee. Well, many did become God’s beloved devotees. Why should I think that I cannot? Little children go to KG. It is very difficult to imagine looking at them that few years later one of them becomes a professor, a writer, a musician, a medical doctor, an engineer, a pilot, a scientist, or a responsible person in the society. Similarly, if we work for these qualities properly, then we may acquire them to some extent.
One more important point is that these qualities are inter-connected. If we take one quality and start practicing it, then all other qualities come with it. Saints say that if we sincerely make attempt and pray to God, then by God’s grace all these qualities manifest in us. It is worth trying. Even fractions of these qualities make us a decent human being.